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URINARY INCONTINENCE IN WOMEN: What Are The Causes?

The involuntary loss of urine or bladder control is referred to as urinary incontinence. It is mostly an embarrassing condition that involves the leaking or passing of urine at inconvenient times. It is either the passing of urine following coughing, sneezing, and other physical activities or the sudden passing of urine due to an extreme urge to urinate. Urinary incontinence is not gender-selective as it affects both men and women. However, it is more prevalent among women. This may be because of contributing factors like pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause that can affect the urinary tract and muscles.

The majority of women have experienced this problem with bladder control. It can be slightly uncomfortable or utterly devastating for some women as it interferes with their daily activities and stops them from engaging in some pleasurable activities like sex. Urine can leak during sexual activity, which can be extremely embarrassing and worrisome for women. Urinary incontinence is common among older women, but it affects younger women as well.

 

WHY DOES URINARY INCONTINENCE HAPPEN

Urinary incontinence occurs as a result of problems associated with the muscles and nerves that control the passing of urine. Urine is naturally stored in the bladder after being produced by the kidney. Once there is a need to urinate, the bladder muscles contract to release the urine into a connecting tube called the urethra, from which the urine leaves the body. The urethra is surrounded by sphincter muscles that relax to allow the urine to pass out of the body through the genitals.

Urinary incontinence ppt occurs following the sudden contraction of the bladder muscles and the inability of the sphincter muscles to shut the mouth of the urethra so that urine does not pass through. When this happens, the sudden and forceful urge to urinate that cannot be controlled is experienced. It may also be a result of problems associated with the nerves that control the functions of the bladder and urethra, this may include their inability to send signals to the bladder to release urine.

When you have incontinence, you either pass urine in small drops or in large amounts unintentionally. Women are majorly affected by two urinary incontinence types which include stress and urge incontinence.

  • Stress incontinence typically affects younger women and is the most common type of incontinence experienced by women. It occurs as a result of placing too much pressure on the bladder. Pelvic floor muscles can become weak and place a lot of stress on the bladder and urethra causing them to work beyond normal. Actions that require the use of pelvic floor muscles like coughing and sneezing will lead to urine leakage. Stress incontinence is also aggravated by certain physical activities and sudden movements.

 

  • Urge incontinence symptoms are also sometimes referred to as “overactive bladder”. It typically affects older women and is followed by a sudden and strong impulse to urinate that defies control. Urine can leak out before getting to the bathroom. It is characterized by frequent trips to the bathroom and can occur at very odd and inconvenient times like during sleep or after contact with running water. Also, very few amounts of urine are passed on getting to the bathroom.

Most women with urinary incontinence exhibit symptoms of both stress and urge incontinence. These women are said to have “mixed incontinence”. Other types of urinary incontinence include functional, overflow and transient incontinence.

 

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF URINARY INCONTINENCE

Urinary incontinence is usually a symptom of an underlying health condition and is not a disease. Symptoms typically include

  • A sudden urge to always make a trip to the bathroom
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom
  • Leaking urine following coughing, sneezing, or other activities like lifting, bending and exercising
  • Leaking urine without a warning urge
  • Passing urine during sleep (bedwetting).

 

WHAT CAUSES URINARY INCONTINENCE IN MOST WOMEN

Urinary incontinence in many women is mostly due to the following causes:

PREGNANCY: A number of women experience urinary incontinence during pregnancy because of the weight of their developing child. The unborn child usually exerts some amount of weight on the bladder, urethra, and the pelvic floor muscles and pushes them down. This causes weakening of the pelvic floor muscles that leads to the involuntary passing of urine. Incontinence usually goes away after childbirth as the muscles often undergo repair.

 

CHILDBIRTH: Problems that arise with labor and childbirth can cause the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles leading to loss of bladder control. During childbirth, the pelvic floor muscles and ligaments that support the bladder can become injured and will lose their strength. This causes the bladder to move out of its position and move towards the vagina. The sphincter muscles are now unable to shut close the urethra, causing urine to leak when the pelvic floor muscles are stressed. Symptoms of incontinence usually resolve on its own after childbirth.sometimes with the aid of remedies. Stress incontinence is usually associated with childbirth.

 

MENOPAUSE: The lowering of estrogen levels that occur as a result of menopause can weaken the urethra. This weakening of the urethra can cause problems with urine control. Also, age contributes to the weakening of all body muscles including those of the urethra and bladder. This may be a contributing factor to the inability to retain urine as you age and approach menopause.

 

HYSTERECTOMY: This involves the removal of the uterus which is supported by the same muscles and ligaments as the bladder. When the uterus is removed from the body, it can cause damage to the pelvic floor muscles. The damage to the pelvic floor muscles and other nerves will distort the body’s ability to control the passing of urine.

 

OTHER CAUSES OF URINARY INCONTINENCE

Aside from pregnancy, menopause, childbirth, and hysterectomy that are peculiar causes of urinary incontinence in women, there are other causes that can also lead to the development of incontinence. These are:

OBESITY: Having extra weight can place unnecessary pressure on the bladder which in turn stresses the muscles and nerves and makes them weak. The weakening of the bladder will result in its inability to retain a large amount of urine at a time. The weak muscles and nerves, on the other hand, will not be able to control the passing out of urine.

 

PROBLEMS WITH THE NERVES: When the urinary nerves are damaged, it may affect their ability to send signals to the bladder to release urine. The nerves may send signals at the wrong time or may not send at all, thereby causing urine leakage or the passing of urine at the most inappropriate times. Problems with childbirth or certain health conditions like diabetes and multiple sclerosis can cause damage to the nerves in the bladder, urethra and pelvic floor muscles.

 

INFECTIONS: Infections such as urinary tract infection that is characterized by frequent urination can pave way for incontinence to occur. However, incontinence that results from infections are temporary and usually goes away within a short period of time.

 

CONSTIPATION: The straining of the bowel muscles as a result of constipation can exert pressure on the bladder and weaken it. It can also affect the pelvic floor muscles and cause them to malfunction. Also, the rectum through which stool passes shares common nerves with the bladder. The strain caused by the presence of hard stool in the rectum can overwork the nerves and increase the frequency of urination.

CERTAIN FOODS AND DRINKS: Drinks containing caffeine, alcoholic drinks, and carbonated drinks can increase the amount of urine contained in the bladder, which increases the frequency of urination. Foods that are rich in sugar, spice, and acid can also have the same effect. However, incontinence that is due to these drinks and foods is usually temporary and only lasts for a short time.

 

CERTAIN MEDICATIONS: Medications like blood pressure drugs, muscle relaxants, sedatives, heart failure pills, and some drugs used to treat certain kidney diseases can all cause urinary incontinence as a side effect. Again, incontinence that occurs as a side effect of medications lasts only for a brief period.

 

HOW CAN YOU TREAT URINARY INCONTINENCE

Urinary incontinence treatment does not usually require medical intervention, not until in severe cases when simple lifestyle changes do not work. Some simple lifestyle and behavioral  changes you can adopt to treat incontinence are as follows :

Practicing kegel exercises: Kegel exercises help resolve issues with incontinence by strengthening your pelvic muscles. You can carry out this simple exercise from the comfort of your home. Kegel exercises are particularly good for dealing with symptoms of stress incontinence. It is also of utmost importance during pregnancy to prevent the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. Kegel exercises involve imagining an urge to urinate and squeezing the muscles of your genitals for a very brief period of time(usually in three seconds) to prevent the urine from passing through and then relaxing the muscles again. It can be done repeatedly in cycles of three for at least three times a day.

 

Bladder training: This involves tracking the number of times you urinate using a dairy, and then subsequently setting specific times to use the bathroom. Once you’ve figured out the pattern of your bathroom use, you can add an extra 15 minutes between bathroom tips and go to the bathroom at those times even when you don’t get the urge to urinate. With time, you can extend the minutes between bathroom trips. This helps to re_train your bladder in holding more urine before communicating the urge to make a trip to the bathroom. This method is particularly useful in treating urge incontinence.

 

Weight loss. Since obesity has been highlighted as one of the causes of urinary incontinence, taking the right steps to lose weight is key to treating obesity-induced incontinence. This way, the bladder, and surrounding muscles will no longer be subjected to unnecessary pressure. Eating the right diet and getting physical activities that are good for weight loss can go a long way in helping you lose weight.

 Dietary changes. Avoiding drinks containing caffeine, alcoholic drinks, and carbonated drinks can help in treating incontinence as they make urine leakage and frequent passing of urine worse. Also cutting down on food containing lots of sugar, artificial sweeteners, and spicy foods can also help treat the symptoms of urinary incontinence.

 Note that you can use pads to retain leaked urine while you are out or even in the comfort of your home to avoid embarrassment and getting your clothes constantly soiled.

In the event that behavioral changes do not work in treating incontinence, it is pertinent to seek medical aid.

  • Urinary incontinence medication, like bulking agents that causes the thickening of the bladder and urethra muscles can be injected into your tissues.
  • For menopause-related causes, vaginal creams or rings laced with estrogen can be prescribed to help elevate estrogen levels in your body, which strengthens the pelvic floor muscles and those of the urethra.
  • Surgery can also be carried out to hold a prolapsed bladder in place or support the muscles surrounding the urethra and the vagina.
  • Catheters that are connected to the urethra can also be used to help your bladder release urine completely without leaving remnants.

It is important to discuss with your doctor and discuss the best treatment plan to treat your overflow incontinence after diagnosis has been made.

 

HOW IS URINARY INCONTINENCE PREVENTED

  • Urinary incontinence can hardly be prevented, but you can take some certain measures to reduce your risk of developing symptoms of incontinence :
  • Watch your weight to avoid becoming obese
  • Eat the right kinds of food, and limit caffeine and alcohol intake
  • Practice kegel exercises regularly
  • Eat foods rich in fiber to avoid multiple incidents of constipation.
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